On this day in wrestling history, July 18, 1948, the largest professional wrestling promotion of that era was born.
There are probably been thousands of wrestling promotions that have started and failed over the decades, but one took a unique approach and flourished for years before it was challenged by the eventual world conquering WWE.
Professional wrestling was divided into numerous fiefdoms called territories that varied in size and covered the United States.
These territories competed with each other, attempting to lure talent from one to the other and vice versa until the idea of working together was broached.
It began when Midwest promoter Paul “Pinkie” George agreed to join with five other regional talents to merge the different territorial champions into a single undisputed world champion.
These men included Al Haft, Sam Muchnick, Tony Stretcher, Harry Light, and Orville Brown. Brown would become the first NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) world champion.
The concept was to form a governing body that would oversee professional wrestling, including the talent and the territories that would be added over the years.
These governors would vote on future NWA world champions, ensuring that the best would carry the Ten Pounds of Gold more times than not.
To ensure the champion would do as they asked, they required a $10,000 deposit that was returned when they dropped the belt.
Branded as the National Wrestling Alliance, the system allowed each territory to remain independent and unique as it functioned, but talent would now be shared or traded back and forth for periods of time.
It offered growth for the wrestlers as well as the promoters as it put wresters in front of people that may not have seen them previously, and helped grow the popularity of the sport.
One of the main rules was that no territory would promote their matches in another territory. It was a business of respect and honor that changed in the early 80s.
A new force
The NWA eventually ran into a greater force that had taken a different approach to running their organization, which resulted in another this day in wrestling history.
Vince McMahon saw what the power of television would mean, and he put a majority of his funding into the production side of things, ensuring better video quality and a more colorful atmosphere to attract fans.
He then brokered deals with networks across the country to air WWE shows and began forcing the territories to lose money and often sell to him (without him paying to them as alleged in Bret Hart’s book Hitman when it came to his father’s Stampede Wrestling) as his polished product became the most popular.
While the WWE quickly took the world by storm and eventually grew into a worldwide phenomena and became the Disney of professional wrestling, the NWA remained.
Though the NWA isn’t nearly as powerful as it once was, it’s survived the WWE, having Jim Crocket Promotions (WCW) leave and then be bought by the WWE, and a split with Impact.
The NWA remains one of if not the largest operating league of independent wrestling promotions in the world.
Some things are just to stubborn to die, and that can be a good thing. The NWA contributed an enormous amount of opportunities for this day in wrestling history, and there’s no doubt more will come.
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